You are sitting around a campfire and someone shifts gears to politics. Great, you think, tensions may flare up and I would rather, well, not — avoid certain embarrassment or the evening’s untimely end altogether, sure.
You’re unprepared. The federal election is looming, a matter of months away.
To give you a confidence boost — during your cobbled together dinner in the woods and in roughly three months when people of this country head to the polls — the News has decided to lay out some of what each candidate is proposing for the Yukon, from the four wannabe MPs to the familiar face of Larry Bagnell.
All major parties are represented in the territory. There’s also a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, headed by the right-wing leader Maxime Bernier, an unabashed climate change denier.
Incumbent Bagnell has been MP of this territory for over a decade (an aggregate number.) He has the longest track record and is the oldest.
Candidates from the other parties want change. They want it bad.
Here’s what the names on the ballot are about (in alphabetical order.)
Larry Bagnell, Liberal Party of Canada
In December, Bagnell announced he would be seeking re-election. He’s been here before, many times.
Bagnell served as an MP from 2000 to 2011. He was re-elected in the 2015 federal election.
He has years of experience under his belt and has been tasked with responsibilities outside his regular duties as an MP. He’s the vice-chair of the committee of Arctic parliamentarians, for instance.
“When you’re there a long time you seem to be able to, I’m not sure the reason, but you can deliver more. The experience really helps,” he said.
Bagnell told the News he basically wants to keep it up, that there’s been a lot of great work completed during his tenure.
“A lot of the reason I got into politics was to help fight poverty. The average Canadian is roughly $2,000 better off from when we got in.”
The Liberals have yet to release an official platform.
Bagnell wants to ensure the Yukon continues to have a low unemployment rate.
“I want to keep up the record levels of infrastructure investment. We have infrastructure projects in every community and there’s a lot more to come in our plans.”
There’s still a need for housing in the Yukon, he said, so he would work to increase the stock.
“We got a lot budgeted in the future to do those, so I want to make sure those keep going.”
Continuing to build relations with First Nations is another issue, because it’s a positive for the economy, among other things, he said.
“The loan repayments for First Nations will be a big economic boost for the Yukon.”
He wants to see that the mineral exploration tax credit is extended by five years.
Lastly, he said he wants to continue to focus on individual constituency issues, something he takes pride in.
Justin Lemphers, NDP
Lemphers, who’s been in the Yukon for over three decades, leans towards workers’ rights. Since securing the nomination in March, he’s expanded his sights on what needs to change here. Most align with the overarching party platform.
One, that a national pharmacare program be instituted.
“That means everyone’s basic health needs are looked after with their health care card,” he said. “Here in Yukon, where you have families that are struggling to make ends meet, knowing that they can afford the prescriptions or the dental care or the mental health care that is required to make them sound individuals and having all of those tools at their disposal is essential.”
Lemphers flicked at problems at Many Rivers, which hasn’t offered counselling services for almost a year, roiling people in this territory. He called it a “debacle.”
“That clearly highlighted the need for sound mental health solutions here in the territory.”
Services offered by Many Rivers were free.
“It doesn’t leave anyone out,” Lemphers said of the pharmacare plan.
Next is the need for responsible resource extraction.
“I understand that we need to be able to extract our resources, we just wanna be able to do it in a way that protects the environment and protects the values that people cherish out there,” Lemphers said.
Yukon innovators should be invested in, he said — GroundTruth Exploration out of Dawson City, for instance.
“They have these incredibly low intrusion methods for exploration now. They can pinpoint to a very fine degree where pay sources are.
“Be that private enterprise, small business or First Nations’ (development corporations). The people that are closest to the land know what the challenges are here in Yukon and they have the ability to come up with the solution,” Lemphers said.
If elected, he said he would advocate for more housing in the territory, affordable housing.
The NDP wants to introduce 500,000 affordable housing units nationally over 10 years.
“We have this housing crunch, this inability to access the land up here for housing. When we do have housing, it’s incredibly expensive,” Lemphers said.
The goal is to draw people in to the territory, then, once here, they stay, he said.
Asked how he would make housing affordable in the Yukon, he said incentives for retrofits and first-time homeowners.
How that could be translated in the Yukon could come in the form of social co-ops, investments in non-profit housing opportunities and fast-start funds to streamline application processes, he said.
Self-sufficiency is another priority.
The NDP wants to develop local food hubs, the impetus being that communities would be able to cultivate more of their own food without relying on outside sources.
“The cost of living in the North is expensive and one of the areas where we suffer is food security,” Lemphers said. “We need to have more robust infrastructure and that means developing close-to-home food sources and opportunities.”
Lenore Morris, Green Party of Canada
Lenore Morris is a new to politics. She secured the candidacy for the Greens late last month.
Most of her ideas for the Yukon deal with the environment, battling wildfires with preventative measures being one, which she fits under the umbrella of climate change adaptation.
“Right now, we’re in the thick of it, literally, with the forest fires all over. I think there’s no question that we’re gonna be having more and more forest fires in the future,” she said.
“I think we need to be doing really large scale fire smarting.”
The benefits are twofold, she said: safer communities and more employment opportunities.
Morris wants to increase the number of visits to Kluane National Park, noting that what it receives now is a drop in the bucket compared to other areas.
“Here we have one of the best parks in the country, we’ve got the highest mountain in Canada and hardly anybody goes there,” she said.
While there are many outfitters in the Yukon, more investments for guides are needed, Morris said.
She wants to see more visitors, but the caveat is that there won’t be more development, she said.
“There could be huts,” she went on. “We could develop a guiding industry. We should have a really vibrant guiding industry.”
Another issue is getting the federal government to combat the overfishing of salmon in Alaska.
“We used to have a great salmon fishery in the Yukon River,” Morris said. “The industry has been decimated.
“The issue is the management of the fishery on the Alaska side. A lot of it is being caught, ironically, as side catch. It’s created a real injustice, where the fish aren’t even getting across the border to be caught by Yukoners.”
In a previous story, Morris said she wants to fight the development of a new power plant in the Whitehorse area.
Yukon Energy Corp. pitched a new energy plant in May, powered entirely by fossil fuels (the public feedback period ended last month.)
The facility would be 20 megawatts, larger than six diesel rentals that are roughly two megawatts each, which are used during system failures. The new power plant would fill in during these capacity shortfalls, ramping up power supply, CEO Andrew Hall told this newspaper recently.
“There’s been a lot of people that have been unhappy about the fact that the only options on the table are fossil fuel options,” Morris said in June. “We’re in a place where we have this huge geothermal potential, as well as wind and solar. It’s very frustrating to see that there’s not being more effort made to develop that.”
Morris said she also wants to ensure new housing is built in First Nations communities.
Jonas Smith, Conservative Party of Canada
Smith’s number one priority is to scale up hydro capacity in the Yukon. But rather than having another major plant, he suggested it would be in the best interest of residents, including First Nations, to have smaller ones widely dispersed throughout the territory.
“It may not have as much bang for your dollar at the end of the day and you may have a greater environmental footprint cumulatively from multiple smaller sites as opposed to one big one, but that way you’d spread out the environmental footprint across multiple First Nations’ traditional territories and no one is impacted too significantly at once,” he said. “You also spread out the economic opportunities and benefits across multiple First Nations.
“If a First Nation’s traditional territory is impacted, there’s an argument for compensation, so there’s still an opportunity to benefit in some way.”
Smith said most of his priorities “bleed into each other.”
He said he would move towards striking modern day agreements with the three Yukon First Nations that aren’t self-governing.
“There are some sensitivities there, but at the end of the day we want all Yukoners to prosper, and every day that goes by without certainty in the non-settled areas is, frankly, the next generation of children are being left with fewer opportunities, in my view,” Smith said.
Jonas hooked the uncontested nomination in September. It was not long after this point that he told the News he would address the federal government’s gun control legislation.
Bill C-71 received royal ascent on June 21.
Smith wants to repeal it.
“Making it harder for Yukoners to own and use firearms, both for sporting and (subsistence) purposes isn’t gonna do anything to fight crime in downtown Toronto or provide supports for people with mental health issues that are in danger of hurting themselves or others,” he said.
Repealing the carbon tax is another priority, a goal of Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer, who visited Whitehorse recently. Scheer told a News reporter Canadians don’t want to pay more money for a system that isn’t designed to work.
“I don’t understand how charging us more for necessities of life is going to change our behaviour when we don’t have alternatives,” said Smith, referring to northerners. “I’d rather see a government using a carrot than a stick.
“I spent 10 years living off-grid in a cabin. I know very well what a low carbon lifestyle looks like from personal experience.”
Smith’s alternative to the carbon tax follows what Scheer proposed: tax credits for energy efficient retrofits.
Joseph Zelezny, People’s Party of Canada
The People’s Party of Canada (PPC) will have a spot on the ballot in the Yukon this federal election. Its acclaimed candidate is a free speech advocate, someone who does not believe that climate change has been accelerated by human activity.
In a written statement, he said he wants to do away with censorship impacting free speech.
To do this would include ensuring “Canadians can exercise their freedom of conscience to its fullest extent as it is intended under the Charter and are not discriminated against because of their moral convictions,” he said.
He said he supports his party’s plan to withhold federal funding from universities that violate “the freedom of expression of its students or faculty.”
When it comes to the economy, Zelezny said his party would balance the budget in two years, the carbon tax system would be scrapped and income tax would be cut.
Zelezny said he wants to shore up border services, reducing the total number of immigrants to 250,000 annually. He characterizes this as “responsible immigration.”
He wants to increase resources to the RCMP, CSIS and immigration officials in order to do “background checks and interviews as necessary.”
Repealing Canada’s new firearm legislation is also on Zelezny’s list. He said it unfairly targets responsible gun owners.
He wants to pull Canada out of the Paris agreement, which established international benchmarks for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He called the targets it established “unrealistic.”
Zelezny would also get rid of subsidies for green technology, letting “private players develop profitable and efficient alternatives.”
He said “climate change alarmism” is scaring Canadians.
“The policy debate about global warming is not grounded on science anymore,” Zelezny wrote. “It has been hijacked by proponents of big government who are using crude propaganda techniques to impose their views.”
Contact Julien Gignac at email@example.com